Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, September 30, 2023
Ben Brust

From Madison, Wisconsin to Pasvalys, Lithuania, Ben Brust hasn't had to change his sharpshooting and high-energy style of play to find success.

Ben Brust makes his start overseas

Former UW guard begins his professional career as 3-point specialist for Pieno žvaigždes

Ben Brust had quite a career at Wisconsin. He graduated as the Badgers’ all-time leader in career 3-pointers made with 235 and broke the school record for 3-pointers in a season twice, with 79 in the 2012-’13 season and then 96 in 2013-’14.

He will go down as one of the quintessential Bo Ryan players, a turnover-averse sharpshooter, a tenacious rebounder and a defender that played much bigger than his 6-foot-1 frame.

And, of course, he made that one shot that is still shown before Badger games today, his half-court buzzer beater against a Top 5 Michigan team that made the Kohl Center explode in uproarious joy.

After a short stint with the Milwaukee Bucks’ Summer League team, he’s gone the way of former teammates Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz, playing basketball across the Atlantic. Brust currently plays with Pieno žvaigždes (it took me more tries to correctly pronounce that than I care to admit) of the Lithuanian Basketball League, abbreviated in Lithuanian as LKL.

With Pieno, Brust plays in a deep rotation that allows him to see more than 20 minutes per game despite coming off the bench as a shooting guard. According to, Brust averages 9.0 points per game in LKL play on 48.3 percent shooting and 45.5 percent from 3-point range, the best on the team with at least five attempts. That’s pretty much in line with what Wisconsin fans would expect from their all-time 3-point shooter.

As far as the play style in the league goes, Brust describes it as much more quick-paced due to a major rule difference in FIBA play.

“With the 24-second shot clock, it’s a little bit faster,” Brust said in a FaceTime call. “You don’t have time to do long plays, you just call quick plays and if you don’t have anything, you either go into a ball screen or make a play. The rhythm of the game overall has just been something to get used to.”

Brust is not the only American college player on Pieno. Alex Oriakhi, the team’s starting center, won a championship with Connecticut in the 2010-’11 season and later made All-SEC after transferring to Missouri. Oriakhi’s Missouri teammate, Michael Dixon won Sixth Man of the Year awards in two different conferences and is now Pieno’s leader in points per game in LKL league play.

They and Brust came together as Americans in unfamiliar territory. Since they play in the smallest town to have a team in the LKL, they often drive to a nearby larger city that holds more Western amenities like movie theaters, KFC and Japanese restaurants. In Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital city, Brust also visits Billy Baron, an honorable-mention All American at Canisius he befriended over the summer.

Lithuanian food, known for potatoes, dumplings, pork, berries and mushrooms, is also apparently not too bad but still holds some mystery.

“I don’t even ask what the stuff is, because I have no idea, but it tastes good so I just keep eating it,” Brust said.

As far as crowds go, Brust actually describes a louder audience in the LKL than back in the Big Ten. What they lose in numbers they make up for in tighter-packed gyms and air horns. Lithuania is a country known for a deep focus on basketball, and their league frequently serves as evidence of this.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Daily Cardinal delivered to your inbox

“Lithuanians are very proud of their basketball culture. They did well in the FIBA games right before the summer ended and basketball is their main sport. Any game you go to, the fans take it really seriously and it’s been fun to feel and hear their support.

There hasn’t been too difficult a language barrier within the team for Brust to navigate, thanks to some English-speaking help. Since he plays in such a small town though, life outside basketball makes communication more difficult, but that’s lessened by Brust learning some small amounts of Lithuanian.

“I got the basics, the ‘hi,’ ‘bye’ and ‘thank you,’ and I can count to 10. [I don’t know] much because, thankfully, a lot of my teammates and coaches speak enough English where we can communicate that way,” Brust recalled. “I have picked up on a lot of the swear words, but I won’t repeat those.”

Brust keeps in contact with friends and family in the States mainly through Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime but still has to negotiate an eight-hour time difference. There have been no visits back home for him, nor any visitors from home.

“I told everyone ‘When I get to a different place later on, hopefully next year I can have people visit and have some stuff to do,’” Brust said. “Right now, I’m going through it and can’t wait to go home and see everyone.”

The only major departure from last season’s UW Final Four team, Brust has kept up with the Badgers as much as he has been able to. However, he’s still limited by his full schedule as a pro basketball player and the time difference.

“I watch as much as possible. Sometimes, it gets tough when the 6 and 8 o’clock games start at 2 and 4 a.m. Weekend games I usually catch because of the better hours, but I still keep track of everything and they’re clearly doing well,” Brust said. “Everyone’s done a good job at using the experiences from last year and those have helped them become the players and the team they are this year.”

It seemed like Brust was enjoying the chance to play with Pieno and “get his feet wet” with European basketball, but he’s only on a one-year contract and will check out his opportunities once his time with the team is up.

The LKL is just part of a multitude of leagues in Europe, and there’s no telling where Brust could up, either in one year or 10.

“There are so many different places and options that you never know. Travis Leslie played here last year and he didn’t know if he was going to come back or not, and he ended up playing for a different team the next year. There’s no set-in-stone path.”

“I’m going through this year with Pieno žvaigždes, regrouping from there and taking it year-by-year,” Brust said. “I haven’t really thought of what I want to do after this, but I’m keeping my options open, so you never know.”

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Daily Cardinal has been covering the University and Madison community since 1892. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Daily Cardinal